When Should I Start a Content Marketing Program for My Technology Company?

right-time-to-start-content-marketing-programI recently had a conversation with the founder of a technology company (fill in industry here—I’ve actually had this exact conversation—literally—with 7 different technology companies in the last 5 weeks). They were referred to us by a mutual connection based on their need (increase in qualified sales leads), and what we provide to technology clients (more, and better nurtured sales leads). They wanted to talk to us about marketing their company. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

“We’ve never engaged with a content marketing agency before—we haven’t had to. We’ve grown our business to $X Million in revenues through word-of-mouth and personal connections. We’ve recently invested in expanding our sales team, and that’s not driving the leads like we thought it would. In fact, the sales team’s expectation is that we will be driving leads to THEM (this is a reasonable assumption on the part of the sales team), and our current efforts just aren’t scalable and aren’t generating the leads we need. No, we aren’t doing any content marketing. So, here we are. We need more leads, NOW. Today. What can you do?”

Frankly, I’m a little surprised when we run into a tech company that isn’t doing content marketing at all. Why? According to a recent study sponsored by Brightcove titled 2015 B2B Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs, 86% of B2B companies are now doing some form of content marketing, and 83% of them are using content marketing for Lead Generation. That being the case, it’s quite rare that we are brought in to start a strategy and content marketing program from scratch. Typically our clients engage us because they have been creating content for some time, but haven’t been able to track the ROI, or generate the results that were promised.

Back to our conversation: we talk a little more about the structure of the organization, what’s unique about their particular technology business (80% of technology businesses are essentially the same—it’s the 20% that’s unique and where the magic happens), and what internal assets they have on hand that will help build a content marketing strategy that drives qualified leads. We talk budget, resources, content plan, and a few other details to button up the program. And then we hit the wall—we’ll get to exactly what that is in a minute. First, let’s talk about WHY technology companies might not be doing content marketing, and why they wait to start their content marketing program.

Reasons companies wait to start content marketing (hint: it’s not about budget).

I don’t have enough time (or employees with enough time) to blog. (And really, there’s never enough time for anything)

You’re not alone here. The Content Marketing Institute states that [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]69% of B2B content marketing professionals feel that finding time to create content is a challenge[/inlinetweet], and 30% of content marketers find this is the biggest challenge. It’s a reality of doing something that’s valuable and works—it requires resources, knowledge, time and effort. Thankfully, you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting yourself. You can hire someone, or engage a content marketing agency to help you with that. Which leads us to the next reason.

No one knows my tech like me

Of course they don’t. No one will ever know your tech (or your business) as well as you. Does that prevent you from hiring a CPA or a lawyer? Here’s the thing: a great content marketing strategy will focus on your BUYER, not your product. Yes, we’ll have to gain a great understanding of where you play in the market and why your product or service is better, but a solid marketer focuses on the buyer.

A great content marketer (or agency) will be able to spend a few weeks with you, learning about your buyers, your market and your solution, and help you create a plan that is appropriate for your unique situation. Part of the problem you’ll face is the same problem that you have in recruiting talented technologists: there’s a resource shortage. In fact, according to the B2B Content Marketing Trends study, [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]32% of B2B marketers are struggling to find trained content marketing professionals[/inlinetweet] this year.

We don’t know who our ideal buyers are

Again, you’re not alone. According to a Forbes Insights report, Reaching the Right Audience, “The primary challenge for audience targeting is identifying the proper personas. Fifty four percent of North American companies and 76% of EMEA companies cite this as the biggest challenge.”

This means that a lot of companies are really struggling with how to find their ideal buyer. There’s an important part of a good content marketing strategy that will illuminate the who, what, where and why about your buyer, and that’s the development of adaptive buyer personas. A properly developed buyer persona will help you improve lead generation capabilities, create a targeted sales approach, and more, according to Zerys, the content publishing platform.

My business is referral or relationship-based

If you’re struggling with time and resources, one of the hardest things to do is invest time in nurturing relationships with customers who aren’t quite ready to buy. Yet, this is one of the key elements of a good content marketing strategy. A weekly (or monthly) value-added, content-driven email blast will keep you in front of that referral, helping you build the relationship, and more. Your content can also help you:

  • Build credibility with newly introduced prospects;
  • Nurture and convert leads;
  • Upsell existing customers;
  • Build brand awareness (this is often cited as the top reason for content marketing).

Nurturing and converting new business is our primary goal in sales, and it takes time. A great content marketing strategy will help ease the burden by mapping out the right email to send at the right time, or the right brochure or case study to deliver at the right stage in the sales funnel.

And who doesn’t have time to upsell an existing customer?

According to The Sales Lion, “If your company CEO and/or management team do not fully embrace content marketing, your efforts to find massive success online and have a cultural transformation will very likely fail.”

I don’t need to market my business

This is another variation of the “my business is referral or relationship-based” rationale. And it’s valid. Some businesses just don’t NEED to market. They might be the only provider of a technology in the market. Or, they might be so well known that they have brand-recognition. But content marketing still adds tremendous value to this type of business.

With a business that thrives on technical innovation, content marketing serves a unique purpose: it provides insight into the minds of those who are innovating. For example, if you are a chip manufacturer that produces fast chips for mobile networks, the market knows who you are. And the market probably wants to know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and where you think the market might be going. This translates into thought leadership, credibility, and brand awareness–all important—from the smallest to the largest companies.

I don’t know if this will work for my _________ technology company

5 years ago, this would have been a valid fear. Today the case studies abound that demonstrate the value of content marketing done RIGHT. This is however a double-edged sword. The study by Marketing Profs and Content Marketing Institute goes on to state that, “70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago”.

Unfortunately, all this content is causing a new problem: more noise than ever. In a recent report by TrackMaven, The Content Marketing Paradox: Is More Content Really Better? They show that “Across 2013 and 2014, the output of content per brand increased by 78%, but content engagement decreased by 60%”. And this doesn’t cover just blogs. This is true across Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social channels as well. The question you should be asking isn’t “will content marketing work for my company?” but more along the lines of, “how does my company create high quality content that stands out from everyone else’s?”

We’re already doing some sort of marketing

…And it’s working. Sort of. You’re probably doing SOME sort of marketing. You might have someone “doing SEO” (how do you know that’s working?), or maybe an intern managing your social media channels (this actually happens), or better yet, you’re blasting out sales emails (please don’t ever buy a list). This is a lot of activity. But what is it yielding?

Set a goal. Examine the ROI (or just look at the leads you’re generating) from this activity. Will you be able to hit your goal, in the time period, you’re expecting? Is the activity your doing enough to help you decrease reliance on relationship and word-of-mouth selling (what we call scalable)?

I love this quote by eConsultancy:
“The rise of ‘content marketing’ has also been fueled by the realization that actually a lot of the success of, say, SEO or Social Media or Email Marketing or most forms of marketing isn’t about ‘doing more SEO’ or ‘investing in social’ but is about creating great content that people will want to read, link to, talk about and share”.

When you email someone, tweet something, share information, or optimize your website, at the heart of it all, is… content. Shouldn’t it be YOUR content that is being emailed, tweeted, shared and optimized?

So, when should I start content marketing for my technology company?

To make sense of the timeline for content marketing, there are a few quick statistics you should know first.

  • B2B companies with 100 to 200 pages will generate 2.5 times as many leads compared to those who have 50 pages or fewer. (Vertical Measures)
  • Companies that blog 15x a month generate 5x more traffic than companies that don’t blog. (Vertical Measures)
  • Where marketers will be increasing spends in 2015, the top five responses were; SEO (57%), Social Media (54%), Email (48%), PPC (43%), and Social Communities (40%). (Regalix)
  • The average email metrics for associations include a 98.28% delivery rate, 34.04% open rate, and 18.03% click rate. (Informz)
  • Two-thirds (67%) of those who use an integrated strategy combine email marketing efforts with social media and content marketing to more effectively engage targets with a multichannel strategy. (Lionbridge, 2014)
  • At 1.47 million emails sent per month, U.S. companies send more emails than the global average of 1.38 million. (Marketing Land)
  • By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship without talking to a human. (dotmailer)

That being said, typically a strategy will take 4-6 weeks to create. In that time, it’s expected that you will already have a website with 20-30 pages. If your target is initially 100 pages, that leaves you with about 70 pages (blog posts) to create. If you are able to generate 3-4 quality blog posts/week (12-15/month), then you should be on target to start seeing real results inside of 6 months.

And that’s the wall that many technology companies run into. If you wait until you really need the leads to start your content marketing effort, you’re already too late. Content marketing is truly a long game, and demands that you start BEFORE you need it.

Interested in learning how we improved a tech co’s traffic within the first 2 months of engagement?

Read about adaptive personas to learn how they can help improve your content marketing, and then contact us to learn how we leverage a new approach to buyer persona develop to improve inbound traffic, social engagement, and drive quality lead generation.